- September 24,2011
For some reason I’ll never know my parents gave me Ray for a middle name. I guess they figured James Ray Landry sounded good. James became Jimmie and I never thought much about Ray until I heard a guy on the radio named Ray Charles. Besides feeling an instant love for his sound, I guess because there was some connection that we shared the same name and that made his music reach me deeper. For whatever reason a middle name connected us I felt I needed to play like him and sound like him. Of course there’s no way I was going to come close to the ‘genius’ of Ray Charles, but just to learn his songs and get payed to play them in public was OK with me. After going to hear him in person in 1958 I was inspired even more by just being in the same room as him. His soul touched me and lifted me right up on the stage with him. Each of the following four performances I went to see him over the next thirty years was a religious experience. His presence would send me into Ecstasy. In 1980 I saw him in a small club in Houston Texas. I was seated about twenty feet from him and the energy from his body was so strong it felt like he could pick up that grand piano and throw it at me. His records, CDs, videos and his movie “Ray” are all a poor substitute for an in person performance, but they do provide a good sample for those who did not or never will have a “live” experience. His spirit lives on in any medium you want to tap into. Hallelujah I just love him so!